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on December 28, 2010
I first came to know the name Simon Kuper when he was a guest lecturer at a local university in Toronto, Canada. The articulate British author talked about his new novel Soccernomics and some of the core arguments. Despite making some fascinating points about football, he looked uncomfortable and unable to answer some of the questions that the audience prosed in the Q&A period. I was greeted with a great deal of skepticism, but decided to purchase the book anyway.

After reading through the book, I can safely say Soccernomics is fantastic and a must-read for any soccer fan! Stefan Szymanski lives up to his billing as a top sports economist with thorough detail and Kuper fits the part with his commentary including tidbits of witty humour. Correlating statistical analysis with any sport is extremely difficult because you are attempting to satisfy the common reader without flattening the economic methodology. Kuper is to-the-point and articulate in his arguments. Most importantly, he does not make an argument, and then uses statistics to back up his perspective. Rather, he reads through the information, recognizes patterns, and creates a formula. Several fascinating chapters include Core to the Periphery (Guus Hiddink) and why England loses.

Despite the many positives, there are some flaws. At times, the economic analysis is overwhelming and seems suited more for a peer-reviewed journal than a book for the common consumer. As well, some of the variables are far too large (population, income etc) and rarely include common competing variables (other popular sports etc). Furthermore, Kuper is well-travelled and could integrate more of his personal experiences to add some `spice' to the arguments (Hiddink is an excellent example but we also know how he has done speeches at Fenerbahçe Spor Kulübü.

All in all, an excellent book and I would highly recommend it.

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on November 24, 2009
This is one fun book to read. The chapter on penalty shoot outs is worth the price alone. I highly recommend it to anyone who actively follows the sport - it's a very entertaining book on a fascinating topic.
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on March 12, 2015
A useful book pointing to global trends that seem undeniable but at the end-of-the-day each game in knockout tournaments remains unpredictable given the vagaries of day-to-day performance and officiating inconsistencies. A global enterprise? Certainly. Best team wins? A posteriori.
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on November 13, 2009
Simon Kuper wrote one of the best books on modern soccer (Football Against the Enemy) while Stefan Szymanski cowrote one of the worst (National Pastime: How Americans Play Baseball And The Rest Of The World Plays Soccer). Maybe because the economist Szymanski teamed with an actual sports journalist this time, Soccernomics actually works on so many levels.

You may not agree with all of their conclusions (i.e., economic might + large population base = soccer success) but they do make strong arguments and give soccer fans a better, and more modern, way of looking at the sport. I don't really get their referencing the Moneyball approach done by the Oakland A's GM Billy Beane in baseball as a comparison. As anyone who has read Michael Lewis's excellent book, the theory works better than the actual results (Oakland having made the playoffs previously under Beane's reign failed in the first rd every postseason and the main player held up as an example in Moneyball of Beane's genius made hardly a dent at the MLB level).

Then again that has to be Szymanski who seems obsessed with comparing soccer to baseball. He really needs to get off that jag.

When the economist and the journalist focus exclusively on soccer they do get much of it spot on especially about how World Cup qualifying records having no correlation to World Cup Finals' success or failure, the reasoning behind England's record at tournament play, how penalties are less of a crapshoot than we think and so much more.

As Freakonomics now begat Super Freakonomics, hopefully these two are writing Super Soccernomics as you read this.
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on October 14, 2010
To add to the credibility of what these guys are saying, read and/or re-read this book and compare what they said to what actually happened in the FIFA 2010 World Cup. They said West Europe is currently/still the dominant force at the world soccer stage, that are; they said Japan would do well and they did; and they predicted England's exit to a tee: they predicted they'd lose to Germany or another old war time rival; and they did. Excellent read from both a statistical standpoint and in the entertainment department.
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on September 10, 2011
I am a long time fan of the Bill James series of books so I was very excited about this book. However, it just didn't deliver for me. I felt that some of the math and derivations seemed opportunistic ... Sometimes ignoring holes because they may have been inconvenient. Perhaps the goals were too ambitious
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